Katherine (Beanie) Breen-Kurucsev: The Snowdrop

We all grew up together on Avoca Avenue. Our families were and still are closely knit. So when one of us succumbs to the effect of terminal illness it affects us all. The effects are greater when the death is that of a childhood friend whose life ended just as I thought it was only beginning. Although 42 Katherine was always in my mind the little girl sitting on my father’s knee being consoled because the boys didn’t ask her play football, or the little girl who used to come in the early morning to fish the goldfish out of our pond, my father being the only person who knew why the goldfish kept disappearing -the tranquillity of innocence that was Katherine.  Death in your 40s is just not fair. Isn’t it meant to be still a millennium away? Why was she destined to die so young?

The past few weeks for Katherine’s family and friends have been numbingly tragic. So many emotions, grabbing at hope only to be replaced by despair.  And yet it seems that only over the past two or three weeks have I really known Katherine.  About three weeks ago she was informed by her doctors in Australia, where she had lived for the past 15 years with Nick, her husband, she only had a few days left in this world. She made the decision that she wanted to return to Ireland to spend her final days at home with her father and mother. Her amazing family rallied together and they made it happen.  After a gruelling flight from Australia, accompanied by doctors and nurses, her husband, her Mum, and brother, Katherine arrived back in Ireland on the 8th February.

Last Saturday, my mother called me to say she had said goodbye to Katherine, an experience she said that will never ever leave her mind.  Katherine was asleep like an angel, the tranquillity of innocence, her ever attentive brother Nicholas at the foot of her bed reading to her.  Katherine had borne her burden. It was time.

In was 1993 when Katherine came to stay with me in Hong Kong, on her way back to Ireland after an extended holiday in Australia.  She was feeling uneasy…  We talked. She told me about Nick, that she loved him, and already missed him. I told her to go back if she loved him. She did.

Soon she was making a name for herself in the local communities of Ballina and Lismore, New South Wales, her new home. A highly competent and professional journalist, media and promotions officer, she wrote with an honourable conscience for several local medical publications covering the Northern Rivers Division of New South Wales.  A cursory glance at the titles of the articles she wrote over the years show the true measure of Katherine’s kindness:  “Preventing youth suicide through community adhesion”, “Caring for the carers, “Separation from birth – the story of one rubella damaged child”, “First Aboriginal doctor for region”….. and more

She continued to write on all sorts of medical issues knowing her word would bring comfort or raise awareness among her avid readership, all the while conscious that the cancer was still loitering in the background.

Katherine’s bravery is her inspiring legacy. Last year she set up a website: http://www. advancedbreastcancersupport.info Advanced Breast Cancer Support, for those with advanced breast cancer and their families.

I have just looked at the website, and read the following, as written by Katherine.

“About the snowdrop motif

I chose snowdrops to be the motif of this website partly because they are my favourite flower, but also because of the hope they signify.

It does not matter how harsh the winter, or how hard the ground, this seemingly fragile flower will always appear in its little clumps in gardens everywhere and sometimes in exquisite drifts, a harbinger of spring and a new beginning.

This small, tough and extraordinarily beautiful flower signifies hope, and also consolation (which we all sometimes need), and it seems an appropriate symbol for those of us with advanced cancer and our families and friends.”

She had borne her burden.  In death there is beauty.

We are bounded by memories, which death will never conquer.

Rest in Peace Katherine.

Katherine (Beanie) Breen-Kurucsev: The Snowdrop

6 thoughts on “Katherine (Beanie) Breen-Kurucsev: The Snowdrop

  • wat a sad but beautiful story,
    i lost my dad to cancer in september ,so hard.
    her family and friends are in my thoughts.

  • When a baby comes to this world, she cries whilst others smile ’cause she knows she comes here to suffer;But the moment she dies, she looks calm whilst others cry as she knows it’s the end of her suffering in this world.So just may her rest in peace.

  • 9th June 2008: "Hi Niall, my name is A, and I’m sitting here nursing a hot Jamesons, thinking about my best friend Katherine, who I never knew as Beanie until she died, and I read your entry.  I miss her more than I can say, she was and is a beautiful spirit, innocence is an apt description. She used to say I was the sister she never had.  She was my link with home, Ireland, and the finer things in life.  She used to chew my head off when I was self depracratory, always made me feel more than I am, and truly truly only saw the best in people.  I’m sitting here bawling my eyes out in self pity for my loss, but for Kathrine Niall, she truly escaped a world that really was too base for her.  We can’t say its not fair, we can only concede that she now has no pain, no more distress, and believe me, I made sure she knew just how loved she was, by myself and all.  I drink tea everymorning out of her little green teapot, and I read her books.  Niall, Katherine was a soul we were lucky to know.  Can’t say much more, my email is **** if you would like to say hi.  Regards, A."

  • I’ve only just noticed this obituary. I’m feeling shocked and sad.

    Katherine arranged and guided me through a six-month rural GP locum posting in the Northern Rivers region. She was a livewire – warm, chatty, funny, astute, helpful and human.

    Some people occupy a larger-than-expected part of your memory; they burn an impression and just hang on in there.

    Take it easy Katherine.

  • It is 2.30am and I cannot go to bed until I write something.

    Dear Katherine – all day today I have been thinking of you. You were one of the kindest of my friends – and having said that – I did not hear the news you had died for many months. My fault – I had been out of touch for many months with all my friends (and therefore with you too).

    But Beenie – it doesn’t stop you being in my thoughts and being special to me (and to many others) … I have only just found this site – (like I said – I have been thinking of you alot these last few days – so I must write to you.

    I have such lovely memories of you – of parties … saturday evenings … down in the basement – your den. We had some fun at your house… parties then – and thru the years. You had wonderful parents and family … I thank them all for all there kindnesses on all of my visits.

    And while I want to remember you for fun – I remember you in many more ways. You were and have always been a ‘real’ humanatarian (as Niall said in his writing earlier). I had always thought I was a strong humanatarian too – until one day we had an essay assignment … It was trivial in so many ways – yet so revealing.

    To my memory it was about staying with an aunt over Christmas – who would not allow a Christmas tree!! {Now to anyone not in our school … nor in our class … that might seem trivial … } … but Katherine put all of us to shame. Except for Beenie … I cannot remember another to see another point of view.

    She was the only person who saw the situation (or what might have been the situation) with empathy – she saw the best and tried to make the best of it.

    She put me to shame – but in a good way.

    I have often thought of this and how to remember to think there is another point of view.

    Katherine – you always looked for the best – you were too good for us. I truly mean that.

    I am not a writer … nor was meant to be … but I just want to add my words to the site that Niall started (thank you Niall) … thank you for giving me an outlet – to let Katherine – and anyone else cares – know that she was special to me too.

    With love and thoughts and fond wishes … your friend Steph

  • My darling friend, thinking of you on the day that marks 50 years since you were born. And what a lucky day that was for so very many people. The love, joy and friendship you gave to your family and friends is very special. I miss you and keep the memory of you close to my heart. Love Sinead

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